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Secretary Rumsfeld En Route to Eritrea Media Availability

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
December 10, 2002

Monday, December 9, 2002

(En Route to Eritrea)

Rumsfeld: The three or four day trip that we're embarking on is very much about the global war on terrorism. The fact that we're going to Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Djibouti and Qatar, is an indication that it is global. It's also an indication that the 90-plus countries that are involved in helping each in a distinctive way are each important. And having the chance to visit these particular countries is a way to indicate to them how valuable, the value we place on what they're doing and also the it's an indication to the world of the value we place on what each of their countries are doing.

The fact is it's going to be a long war and the fact that it is a distinctly different kind of war I think is emphasized by the fact that it absolutely requires the cooperation of countries of all sizes of each continent on the face of the earth, if we're going to be successful tracking, finding and dealing with terror cells.

The visit, last visit before we come back, will be in Qatar and obviously the exercise is taking place there is called Internal Look. It's been many months in the making and it's an opportunity to test and exercise a deployable command and control center. And I look forward to being back there and having a chance to see precisely how well we are arranged.

Q: [Prospects for CJTF Horn of Africa tracking and capturing al Qaeda?]

Rumsfeld: Well we know there are al Qaeda in the area, several countries, in varying numbers. We also know that to the extent we put pressure on them in one places they tend to be disrupted and have to find other locations which is not always easy.

Q: [Are countries in the area providing resources?]

Rumsfeld: Sure we've had activities in this part of the world in cooperation with governments that are useful. Sharing intelligence and the like.

Q: Eritrea and Ethiopia have apparently made offers to the United States for use of facilities...so far the US has said no....can you talk to us about that issue, why not?

Rumsfeld: It isn't so much a matter of saying no as they have representatives and liaison in CENTCOM and those discussions are ongoing. There are all kinds of ways countries can help. They can help with providing overflight rights, which they are, and provide some access to bases from time to time, they can share intelligence, they can backfill in one country if we need to move forces from that country to some place else. They can cooperate in maritime activities as some countries do. It is something that evolves over time, but you're right some countries have offered opportunities and in the case of Djibouti obviously we have seized that opportunity and have some forces there, at the present time.

Q: Is your trip to the Horn of Africa related to the recent bombing in Mombassa and what kind of help are you hoping for from countries fighting terrorism?

Rumsfeld: We are already receiving assistance from all 3 countries and we're very pleased with it and we value it. I'm not here to engage in transactions, I'm not here to put pressure on anybody. I'm here to demonstrate the fact that the United States values what these countries are doing. We value what they've offered to do and we recognize the importance of it.

Q: Is the help they're giving mostly related to al Qaeda in Yemen and Somalia or are there pockets in their own countries?

Rumsfeld: It varies from country to country and I think the way to think of it is that we need to strengthen relationships with countries in many many parts of the world as we have in Central Asia. If you go back and think about it, shortly after September 11th and indeed when I first came into office, I said I thought the 21st century offers an opportunity to change relationships among countries.

The event on September 11th accelerated that opportunity and deepened it. What you're seeing happen in the world is that the United States is working with a large number of countries that we did not previously have close relationships with of a political, economic, or military type relationship. And it is a good thing for our country.

We need to build that cooperation to have change what we're able to do. I think it's a mistake to think of it as transactional. And I think the right way to think of it is relationships that are evolving over time. Just as they have been in Central Asia, just as they are in South Asia.

Q: Has a US Secretary of Defense ever visited Djibouti, Eritrea, or Ethiopia before?

Rumsfeld: I don't know.

Q: Can you tell us what we've learned so far about the Iraqi declaration?

Rumsfeld: Yes. I've got some word on that today and it's long. It's in more than one language. How am I doing?

It clearly will need to be the subject of attention on the part of nations in the Security Council and elsewhere. Certainly the United States will have an interagency team that will be pouring over it and discussing it. Given the length of it, I would think it would not be the kind of thing that someone would skim through overnight.

Q: Are they in material breach?

Rumsfeld: I think if you go back and read the resolution, you'll find that the resolution says they were already in material breach and anything that occurred subsequently would be considered, I believe the phrase was, additional material breach.

Q: Are they in additional material breach?

Rumsfeld: How would one know? It just arrived. It hasn't even been translated. There's no way in the world to know what's in that declaration in 5 minutes.

Q: If the declaration does not add to what known in UNSCOM report in 1998 - would they then be in additional material breach?

Rumsfeld: You know, I'm not going to do hypotheticals on the declaration. It has been I believe received by the United States. It's the subject of intense scrutiny at the present time on the part of a multi-departmental and interagency team. I think the thing to do is to not prejudge it, but to be patient and expect that it will take days and weeks probably to go over it and come to some judgements about it.

Q: Is the US prepared to come forth with evidence of Iraqi WMD?

Rumsfeld: It seems to me that the state of play is that the president went to the United Nations. Previously the United Nations had not been terribly attentive to Iraq. They decided to unanimously pass a resolution. Fortunately the resolution called for a declaration. The declaration's just been supplied. My impression is that the rational thing to do is to read the declaration and come to some judgements about it. And jump off those other bridges when you get to them.

Furthermore I would say this is really a matter for that the White House and the President are going to be dealing with and handling, not the Department of Defense.

Q: Bab el Mandab obviously an important strait - attack on French tanker not long ago - attack in Kenya - any indication al Qaeda operating in that area, not just transiting through, with the idea of disrupting shipping in that vital passage?

Rumsfeld: As you know we have various ship activity, naval activities, multinational naval activities that take place in this part of the world on an ongoing basis. And from time to time - I've forgotten what the proper word is - we communicate with either the nation, the owners or the skippers of the vessels that seem to merit interest on our part and then have discussions with them.

Sometimes those ships are then taken, and their illicit cargo is disposed of in ways other than they originally intended. The things are going on continuously, let there be no doubt.

Q: My impression was no terrorist related cargo in the Red Sea?

Rumsfeld: I have to go check and I guess it may be definitional. The Red Sea begins and ends and then there's an area just beyond the Red Sea and it may very well be that people choose to do it before they get in the Red Sea or after they're in there-- possibly, probably, certainly. [laughter]

Press: Thank you, Sir.